Research and development (R&D) is a critical part of addressing water quality challenges in the Elk Valley. Teck’s research and development program for the Elk Valley has two main branches. The first is a comprehensive R&D program to determine how we can better design mines and mine structures such as waste dumps to protect water quality. The second examines new and emerging water treatment technologies to find the best methods for protecting water quality. The R&D work is organized around the main areas:
Waste Rock Design
How can new waste rock dumps be designed to lower the amounts of selenium and other substances being released and how can existing waste rock dumps be assessed and managed to minimize the release of these substances?
Researchers: University of Saskatchewan (1 MSc Student, staff); Montana State University
Recent work (2012):
- Drilling and sampling of legacy waste rock piles undertaken at Line Creek, Elkview, Greenhills and Cardinal River operations
- Gas and temperature monitoring instruments were installed at various locations
- Geophysical surveys were conducted at each of the research areas
- Intensive sampling of the Turncreek waste rock site, constructed at Fording River Operations specifically to allow evaluation of bottom-up dump construction
- Continued work at research leach pads constructed at Cardinal River and Line Creek operations in 2007
Poster: ‘Spatial Analysis of the Microbial Community in Mining Waste Rock: Activities & Signatures’ [1.11 MB]
Focus: How effective are natural and designed saturated zones in managing releases of selenium and other substances?
Researchers: University of Saskatchewan (Two MSc. Students)
- Preliminary sampling and instrumentation conducted of two saturated zones at Cardinal River Operations
- Installed groundwater wells at Line Creek and Cardinal River in 2012 and sampled groundwater at the new wells and existing wells to inform conceptual models
- Inventoried and compiled available rock and water chemistry data from all Teck coal operations to inform conceptual model development and aid in selection of research sites for 2013
Focus: What advances in source control or selenium treatment/emergent selenium technologies should be implemented at pilot or commercial scale?
All of the research under the R&D program is aimed at identifying mine design approaches or technologies for source control to be implemented at commercial scale. A key question that will be considered by all researchers is how to scale up laboratory results to commercial size
Focus: How can mine developed water bodies (like end of pit lakes) be used to manage releases of substances such as selenium?
- Research ongoing into end of pit lakes to enhance selenium management
- Process undertaken in 2012 to identify key questions and direction for upcoming research into this focus area
Focus: How are tailings from the mine’s processing plant different with respect to release of substances such as selenium?
- Inventory of tailings deposits to identify potential study sites conducted in 2012
- Lab scale research on tailings conducted at ART in 2012
Focus: How do reclamation options affect the release of selenium and other substances, and how do they perform in meeting other reclamation objectives?
Researchers: McMaster University (One MSc student)
- Soil moisture and climate stations installed at locations in the Elk Valley and at Cardinal River Operations
- Vegetation, soil and wildlife assessments conducted
Focus: What is the effectiveness of explosives (nitrates) management on minimizing nitrates in the watershed?
This is at the program planning stage, though nitrates are a key focus in projects being conducted by researchers in other focus areas
Focus: How do water management processes affect the releases of these substances and how can we maximize the effectiveness of water management?
Researchers: McMaster University (Four MSc students and one post-doctoral researcher)
- Identified West Line Creek as focus watershed to address key research questions around water balances for mine affected watersheds
- Commenced research in 2012 with McMaster University on water balances for mine affected watersheds
- Conducted snow surveys, with the data being used by researchers in all focus areas
- Collected groundwater information to inform water balance research
- Installed surface water balance instrumentation at three elevations at West Line Creek to collect data
Poster: The influence of surface mining on catchment response in Elk Valley, B.C
Focus: Can we stop calcite from forming or safely control it?
Substantial research and monitoring into calcite was been conducted previously and that work continued through 2012
Further work undertaken in 2012 to further develop the research into this field through 2013
Focus: How do rock drains affect the release of substances such as selenium?
Researchers: University of Saskatchewan (Post-doctoral researcher)
- Commenced evaluation of rock drains at Elkview and Line Creek operations
- Drilling and sampling of waste dumps at both operations in 2012
- Instrumentation installed at Elkview waste dump
- Bench-scale testing conducted at University of Saskatchewan to evaluate rock drain effluent treatment
- Inventory and classification system established for rock drains